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Zatoichi Abare Tako
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by Brian McKay

"Zatoichi #7: Zatoichi's Flashing Sword"
5 stars

Despite the recycled formulas and that "more of the same" sense of familiarity, the ZATOICHI series just keeps getting better. In fact, I would dare say that this is the best installment so far, hands down, as it provides the perfect balance between the elements that the series utilizes so well - Comedy, Drama, and big-ass swordfights.

When Zatoichi is shot and wounded by a musket-toting Yakuza, He is found by a lovely young woman named Kuni, who takes him back to her father's house and nurses him back to health. He soon becomes a favored guest in the place, and insists on doing various chores in order to repay the kindness of Kuni and her father's hospitality.

As it turns out, the father is the head of a local gang, but for a Yakuza he's a decent and respectable man who treats his people well and puts on a grand fireworks show for the villagers every year. Across the river, however, a rival boss with a really bad stuttering problem has his eye on the local river crossing - which Kuni's father has possession of and collects all tolls from. The rival mobster will stop at nothing to get his hands on the ford and the revenue it produces, and stoops to kidnapping Kuni's brother as leverage in the negotiations.

When Kuni's father and brother are betrayed and killed by the rival boss, Zatoichi takes it upon himself to avenge them. This culminates in one of the grandest finales to date in the series, as Zatoichi kills at least forty men with stunning rapidity, with red flashes from fireworks overhead bathing the scene in a warm, blood-colored hue.

But besides the great action coreography, a number of moments are tragic and poignant, as we see further examples of how poor Zatoichi can never enjoy a modicum of happiness or stay in one place for very long, before his past and reputation catch up with him. Yet the film brings even more comedy into the mix, with some truly wonderful laugh-out-loud moments. The scene in which Zatoichi gets a little payback after giving a massage and being stiffed by the client is truly hysterical, and the usually more subdued Ichi seems much more liberal with the barbs and one-liners.

Once again, Shintaro Katsu displays a truly respectable range, as his character smoothly switches gears from exuberant man-child, to a witty and sarcastic wanderer with a touch of sadness about him, to an unstoppable fury with the blade. This is a must-see for fans of the series, or of the genre.

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originally posted: 02/22/04 08:18:52
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  11-Jul-1964 (NR)



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